India-Pakistan: Taliban Are A Symptom, Not The Disease


March 24, 2009:  The U.S. believes that many al Qaeda leaders have fled to southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) to escape the increasing number of U.S. UAV missile attacks in the Pushtun tribal areas along the Afghan border. The UAV attacks are apparently following al Qaeda into Baluchistan. Both Britain and the U.S. are sending more trainers to Pakistan, to show the paramilitary Frontier Corps better techniques for dealing with the Taliban. The Frontier Corps recruits from the local tribes and normally acts as a rural constabulary. Fighting the heavily armed and fanatical Taliban is often more than the Frontier Corps troopers can handle.

The Baluchi tribes are not as violently opposed to the government as the Pushtun ones. While the Pushtun tribes want independence, the Baluchis mainly want more autonomy (and a larger share of the money from the oil and gas fields on their territory.) The Pushtun tribes (15 percent of the population, in the north and east, along the Afghan border) and the Baluchi tribes (four percent, in the southwest) do not get along with the majority Punjabis (45 percent of the population) or Sindhis (14 percent) in the eastern lowlands. The resulting violence has been going for over a thousand years.

Many Indians are coming to regard Pakistan as a failed state. Politically and economically unstable, with far more factional violence than India, the Pakistani leaders seem unable to agree among themselves, or act in concert, to solve fundamental problems. Not a lot of change since the nation was created 60 years ago, and many aspects of Pakistani society have gotten worse. Prospects are not good.

The big problem with Pakistan is that the many factions are more into themselves than they are "Pakistan." The military, the Pushtun tribes, the Baluchi tribes, various religious factions and the few hundred families that own most of the country, all see themselves as more important than Pakistan. For the country to survive, there has to be more "civil society" (lots of Pakistanis of put the needs of the country above their partisan goals.) The Taliban are basically another faction, combining conservative tribal and extremist religious elements. The Taliban solve nothing, and just cause a lot of violence. Most Pakistanis realize this, and are willing to fight against the Taliban, but less enthusiastic about fighting for Pakistan.

In Indian controlled Kashmir, about twenty soldiers, civilians and terrorists were killed in the last few days. While the Islamic radicals have lost much of their capabilities there, the intense hostility between Kashmiri Moslems and Indian police remains.

In the Swat Valley, the Taliban have ordered all aid or advocacy groups out of the area. The Taliban plan to impose a strict Islamic lifestyle, which won't work. Just like it didn't work in Afghanistan in the 1990s. But the idea lives on.

March 23, 2009:  A suicide bomber attacked in the Pakistani capital, the first such attack since last September. Two died and several were wounded as the bomber sought to attack a police station.

March 21, 2009: In eastern India, Maoists destroyed a school and health center, in revenge for the killing of one of their commanders by police. A large bomb was found and defused. The police and army have been increasingly aggressive, and effective, against the rural Maoist movement. However, the politicians has been less vigorous dealing with the underlying problems of poverty and ineffective government.  

March 19, 2009: In the lower Swat Valley, about a hundred armed men, believed to be Taliban, attempted to raid the University of Malakand campus. Five people were killed, and 14 of the attackers were arrested. In Lahore, Pakistan, government agents arrested five Taliban and seized bomb making supplies. In the tribal territories, someone (apparently Taliban) destroyed electricity distribution towers, blacking out parts of Peshawar, the largest city in the tribal areas.




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